Foster said he spoke to head coach Dabo Swinney on Tuesday and told him he wasn’t sure when or if he would regain the form that made him a potential candidate in the NFL, but that he would like to try.
« [Swinney] says if you feel better, even if you’re not 100%, you can start working with the team and we’ll strengthen you from there, ”said Foster from his home in Shelby, SC. He said: ‘You don’t have to play 60 shots per game; you will just do what you can do. ”
It is estimated that 30% of people infected with COVID-19 develop long-distance syndrome, which means that they still exhibit a combination of symptoms of the disease months after recovery from their initial infection.
Foster was diagnosed with COVID-19 in June and exhibited mild symptoms. However, after his recovery, he still experienced chronic fatigue and debilitating breathing problems when he tried to train. He has always suffered from asthma and allergies, he said, but was able to deal with them by getting up to play for one of the best college football programs in the country. After COVID-19, however, he found himself breathless sometimes after simply climbing stairs, and sometimes for no reason at all.
“Every day you wake up wheezing and you wake up tired and you just think it’s never going to get better,” he said.
Foster missed the 2020 season and announced on February 24 that he was going to give up football to focus on his health, realizing it could be the end of his career.
In conversations with ESPN in early March, he said he was focused on resuming normal life and not thinking of returning to the game.
“I was totally against everything with football. I just didn’t want to be around, ”he said Wednesday. “I know I was at peace with [not playing]but as I got better I knew that if I got better over the next couple of months I would at least regret that I didn’t try. “
Swinney said in a statement Wednesday that he understood Foster’s decision but gave him the option to return. “I know he was not in a good mental situation in January. I tried to talk him out of [moving on] then, but I said to him, “Hey, if something changes, the door is open for you,” and things have changed, “he said.
The turning point for Foster’s health appears to have been in mid-April when he received his first injection of the COVID-19 vaccine. Many hospitals have reported that about 40% of long-haul travelers experience sudden improvement after being vaccinated, and within a week of his first vaccine, Foster felt well enough to resume exercise.
“I started to walk, and that was all I could do. Then I started jogging and walking until I could jog the rest of the way, ”he said. Over the past two weeks, he has stepped up his workouts and resumed strength training.
Foster also began treatment at Duke University’s post-COVID practice on April 23 and received new medications and advice on managing his symptoms. The improvement over just a few months ago has been dramatic, he said. The biggest difference, he said, is his belief that he can come back.
“Physically I’m in a better place, but overall what I feel mentally is the most important. I see myself getting better, ”he said.
He said his doctor told him he was physically ready to return to the field, and when he has days off he has to “suck” and move on. “Just knowing that I can be successful is important,” he said.
“It’s not often that you get a call from a great player who you think is gone and says he’s coming back, so just a good thing,” Swinney said in the statement. “First of all, I’m really excited for Justin to feel better about his health and his ability to train the way he wanted. And that’s great for Clemson because it gives us seven guys who went back to our defensive line. “
Foster graduated with a Bachelor of Science in December, but has one year of eligibility left. The first hurdle was to overturn his medical disqualification with the NCAA, but it turns out the school never filed the documents to disqualify him, Foster said.
“My dad told me, and a lot of other good friends told me, I have the rest of my life to pursue a lot more opportunities. You only get one chance to play the game and most importantly to play at a high level like this, ”said Foster. “Just to start off and to be able to get back to what I love to do, it’s a big weight. I am ready to start grinding. ”